We the People
Addressing the State of our Union
Winter 2017 vol 2, issue 1
Welcome to Turning Point! Our name echoes the widespread recognition that our world, and our humanity, has arrived at a pivotal turning point in evolutionary history.
In this special edition of Turning Point— devoted to specific current events rather than to the more over-arching themes that a periodical of this sort is suited to address—we offer a collection of responses from our CEN community to their post-election experience. Most were drafted weeks ago and are simply offered as markers of felt experience along the way. We are living now beyond the impact moment of the recent election, yet its reverberations continue. Perhaps we could best use the occasion of the Presidential Inauguration to reflect on who/what we’ve each elected to govern our own minds and hearts these past couple of months. And stand, with quivering stability, to inaugurate or reaffirm our embracement of the oath that brought us into life in the first place.
Remembering as well, this is no time to leave our youthfulness behind! Bring your own entertainment to this Inauguration Day—a song, a dance, a poem, even if barely whispered, can go a long way toward breathing life into what we care most about.
May we act in Beauty, act from Inspiration, act Together…
Now is the Time
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
–Jelaluddin Rumi (13th century)
Now, more than ever . . . this phrase has echoed through countless conversations I’ve had, and have witnessed, in the aftermath of waking up on November 9th to an America that felt strangely foreign.
Now, more than ever, it is time for me, for you, for us, to . . .
Now is quivering with a potency that many of our generation have not felt since the sixties. Our nation, indeed the entire world, appears to be swept up in swirling currents of conflicting self-identities and loyalties that have quickly gathered into full-fledged storms. Unsettled weather that puts us on notice that there is no absolute truth or safe hiding in any of our pre-existing sheltered conditionings. Winds that rouse idealism from its comfortable sleep, stirring a felt remembrance of our soul’s true purpose and passion. Stirrings, on all levels.
Breathing on Shaky Ground
by Christina Baldwin
I asked my 96-year-old father how he responds when people ask him about the election. He said, “I tell them that we have just been through an earthquake of great magnitude. My house is still standing, but I have no idea what remains firm ground, where I can take a step.”
Exactly. The words pouring forth on every conceivable media stream, from Twitter to the NY Times, from blogging to pulpits, are our first attempts to discover firm ground and, hopefully, common ground.
Trump and Trauma
by Peter Pitzele
For the past few days the phrases “wretched refuse” and “yearning to breathe free” have been circling in my brain. The words come from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet “The New Colossus,” which celebrate the meaning of the Statue of Liberty. The entire set of lines in which my nagging phrases are embedded goes:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
by David “Lucky” Goff
I’m still feeling rocked. My form of unbalance is different than many—at least I think it is. I have a sense of familiarity with the unsettling change that others are discovering. The level of disillusionment that is going around is deeper than most people are used to, but it isn’t new to me, or to the legions of disenfranchised old people out there. We have known this level of neglect and prejudice for a long time. The truly destitute among us, the old without portfolio, have learned to endure disillusionment, recrimination, prejudice, being considered in the way. This gives us a leg up, some insight into what is happening.
On Misogyny, Anger, Bewilderment, and a Little Beatles Advice
by John Sorensen
I went to bed late Tuesday night, Nov. 8, with a sinking feeling, hearing that Pennsylvania had just been called for Trump. Next morning with confirmation of the Trump victory, I was stunned and deeply horrified – all the good work we had done in the last several years getting our country on the path towards lowering our carbon footprint could now be wiped out with a few strokes of a pen.
But what has bothered me more was the now strong possibility that we could revert to being a nation that doesn’t respect women. That is, our society could morph into one where misogyny becomes the acceptable norm. I have two granddaughters, and I shudder for them with this thought.
An Elder’s Take on the Election
by Renee Fisher
A majority of Americans went to the polls this election year convinced that we were about to elect the first female president in history. Not only that but someone who would continue the Obama legacy as well as the strides we had made in women’s rights and gay rights. We were smug about the win. We planned post-election parties, and we told our children and grandchildren that they were about to see history being made. We didn’t realize that we were, indeed, about to see history being made; a history that we were unprepared to experience. For the first time in many of our lives, we no longer knew what our country was.
Reflections from Abroad
by Meg Newhouse
I am writing these reflections almost four weeks after the election, with its shocking, depressing outcome. I’ve had the advantage of traveling in Myanmar (Burma) and living without US media for the past two weeks. It’s like burying my head in the sand, but it has somewhat restored my equilibrium and it also brings new perspective. The Burmese are getting their first taste of democracy after 50 years of military dictatorship, and I hear how much they value their new freedoms, but also how high—and easily dashed—their expectations are for quick change. (By the way, most Burmese love Obama and supported Clinton.)
Not On My Watch
by Amy Vossbrinck
Early this year, it became abundantly clear to me that I could not sit out the 2016 election cycle. I arranged to use my vacation days at work, contacted a friend in Ohio (a swing state) to offer my volunteer help, paid for my flights and a car rental, and sent in a check for the maximum donation allowed by law.
I spent close to a month in Ohio making phone calls non-stop during the week to identify volunteers to go door-to-door, and going door-to-door myself on the weekends. I could not, with good conscience, watch almost 100 years of progress regarding human rights, common decency, and compassion slowly slip away.
Who are They, Anyway?
by Libby and Len Traubman
Inside our California home we feel deeply, and coast-to-coast across America, we read thousands of post-election words about fears and potential dangers.
Yet, listening carefully across the black-dark chasms of human separation, we citizens see light on some unifying agreement: Many old institutions favor a few and exclude many, sometimes most, of us.
Illuminated also is an American magnificence—our violence-free elections that give voices and ears to everyone who participates; no matter how previously invisible, unknown, left out, unheard, often hopeless and desperate.
by Susan Prince
Many have spoken eloquently about their very visceral emotional experiences the day that Trump was elected. Like everyone else, I was completely surprised and utterly shocked by the stunning outcome. But something else very odd was happening for me. As I watched my friends respond with extreme fear and deep grief, I realized that I didn’t share those same feelings. Maybe it’s because I have been honing a spiritual practice to stay in a state of inner peace in spite of my surroundings. Knowing that I can choose whether or not to be anxious has been very liberating. But the reason that I went down that path is more to the point.
The Gift of Curiosity in Difficult Times
by Roberta Ryan
Lee Gibson, Ph.D., one of my first therapists, believed that handling an intense life situation begins when you find the blessing within the difficulty. He guided me to do this by describing whatever was upsetting me multiple times. As my story changed each time, so did my perception. With that shift came an increased awareness, curiosity, and the glimmer of the blessing—sometimes referred to as the opportunity.
I worked quite a lot with Lee throughout my twenties. I knew his approach worked because during that time I noticed positive changes in my life. Most notably I began to make healthier choices regarding relationships, my career, and self-care.
Drinking from the Fountain of Hope
by Ron Pevny
As I write this on the morning after the U.S. election, I am dealing with a nearly overwhelming mix of feelings and thoughts, a caldron of inner chaos as I try to understand the dynamics driving our country at this critical time in history. And I find it important to reflect on how these dynamics relate to the message of conscious eldering that is my primary service to the world. I feel a need to write this today as my affirmation to myself and to Life of my willingness to shine my light in the darkness and my trust that doing so makes a difference. I encourage us all to continue our commitment to tangible actions that affirm our trust.
Throughout this seemingly endless election cycle, I have tried to look beneath political ideologies and personal characteristics to see the types of consciousness that are at play in the polarization in modern society. And alas, I recognize that same polarization within me—a conflict that I experience as essentially a struggle between fear and trust.
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope –
not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower;
nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill on angry hinges
(people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through);
nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling,
about your own soul first of all and its condition,
the place of resistance and defiance,
the piece of ground from which you see the world
both as it is and as it could be,
as it will be;
the place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
but joy in the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
telling people what we are seeing,
asking people what they see.
–Victoria Safford, reformatted from essay The Small Work in the Great Work,
in The Impossible Will Take A Little While, edited by Paul Loeb